The research interests of the faculty members encompass not only the traditional areas of analytical, inorganic, organic and physical chemistry but also cover many interdisciplinary areas including bioanalytical, bioorganic, biophysical and medicinal chemistry, chemical biology, chemical physics, combinatorial chemistry, environmental chemistry, glycoscience, materials science, nanotechnology, organometallic chemistry and catalysis, surface science, and theoretical and computational chemistry.

Faculty members of the department are involved in academic and industrial collaborations at the national and international levels, with colleagues from foreign countries, including France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

On this page, you can read a little about the research interests of our faculty members, including:

Analytical Chemistry

The analytical chemistry program is among the strongest in North America with a dozen faculty members conducting award-winning research at the forefront of some of the most exciting and significant areas of analytical chemistry.

Much of the recent research is aimed at advancing the state-of-the-art in analytical instrumentation and techniques through increased understanding of the fundamental principles involved. Students graduating from this program readily find employment in government, industry, and academia in fields such as industrial chemicals, high tech, and pharmaceuticals.

Research Areas

Analytical chemistry research at the U of A encompasses a broad range of areas including:

absorption, fluorescence, and Raman spectroscopy;
analytical instrument design;
atmospheric chemistry;
capillary electrophoresis;
chemical microinstrumentation or "lab-on-a-chip";
electroanalytical chemistry;
electrospray ionization mass spectrometry;
environmental chemistry and chemical toxicology;
high sensitivity bioanalytical techniques;
interfacial chemistry;
liquid chromatography;
microarray development;
molecular electronics;
multi-dimensional gas chromatography;
nanoparticle enhanced detection;
polymer brush synthesis and characterization;
proteomics, genomics, and metabolomics;
scanning probe microscopy;
surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy;
and surface plasmon resonance spectroscopy.

Chemical Biology

Chemical biology research involves the use of chemical tools to gain a deeper understanding of biological systems. Chemical biologists use a range of technologies and techniques including: chemical synthesis, spectroscopy, imaging, mass spectrometry, molecular biology, enzymology, protein chemistry, biophysical chemistry, and cell biology to study biological systems. They are also often creating new technologies or build tools that may have broad applicability in the biological sciences.

Research Areas

Chemical biology research goals include:

Controlling the function of proteins, cells, or multicellular organisms with small molecules
Deciphering and manipulating biosynthetic pathways for the production of medically important small molecules
Chemical modification of biomolecules
Engineering of biomolecules to give them properties not found in nature
Coming to a deeper understanding of the chemical basis of life.

Chemical Physics

Chemical physics encompasses both experimental and theoretical/computational research at the boundaries of chemistry and physics, with a stronger focus on the fundamental physics than in the traditional area of physical chemistry.

Research Areas

Some active projects include studies in:

laser control of quantum dynamics
excited state molecular dynamics
rotational spectroscopy
high resolution and ab initio spectroscopy
spectroscopy of chiral recognition and absolute configuration of carbohydrates
helium nanodroplet spectroscopy
condensed phase linear and non-linear spectroscopy

Green Chemistry

Green chemistry is an emerging research area of vital importance.

Society is now required to deal with a diminishing supply of nonrenewable fossil fuels and the negative environmental impact of our current methods for producing energy, commodity chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.

As an inherently cross-disciplinary field, green chemistry requires new research and training structures built upon collaborations between disparate fields of science, engineering, economics, and policy. Several faculty members are involved in crucial research projects that aim to address these global challenges.

These faculty members, along with their graduate students, are gaining the required expertise to play a key role in improving chemical efficiency and sustainability in Canada and throughout the world.

Inorganic Chemistry

Inorganic chemistry is an exciting and expanding field of research that encompasses a wide range of areas and is at the crossroads of interdisciplinary inquiry. This is exemplified by work in inorganic/materials chemistry and main group/organometallic chemistry, which are major strengths in the division.

Materials and Surfaces

Research in materials and surfaces explores the properties of matter and the interfaces of their different states. This field highly interdisciplinary and an exciting area for the department.

In collaboration, the faculty is working to develop novel materials with never before observed physical and chemical properties to solve some of the most important problems in health, energy, and the environment. The materials being developed range from "hard" inorganic materials to "soft" organic/polymer-based materials on macro to nano dimensions.


Research in nanotechnology is interdisciplinary and diverse, with applications in several fields including chemistry, medicine and microfabrication. Our researchers are at the forefront of this new and exciting science, with many holding appointments with the prestigious Nanotechnology Research Centre (formerly NINT).

Research Areas

Some active projects include:

nanoparticle synthesis and derivatization
nanoscale structures for solar energy
self-assembly to build sub-50 nm features on silicon
asymmetric nanoparticle functionalization (Janus particles)
adaptive nanotubular architectures
nanoparticle enhanced spectroscopy
green nanomaterials

Organic Chemistry

Drawing upon the experience and knowledge of a large internationally recognized faculty, students studying organic chemistry at the U of A receive an enriching and high quality education. Graduates of our program find successful and fulfilling careers in industry, government and within academia.

Research Areas

Research in organic chemistry in the department covers a wide variety of topics, including:

antimicrobial agents and biological/biochemical mechanisms
catalysis and organometallic mechanisms
molecular recognition and supramolecular chemistry
carbohydrate/protein interactions and biophysical chemistry
synthesis of biologically active carbohydrates and their libraries
synthetic methodology and construction of natural products
antitumor agents and DNA interactions
new organic materials
combinatorial synthesis and bioorganic chemistry

Physical Chemistry

Research in physical chemistry in the department covers a diverse range of topics, including dynamics across time and lengths scale, weakly interacting systems, biophysical chemistry, technique development, and condensed phase studies.

Research Areas

Some active projects include studies in:

laser control
excited state molecular dynamics
excited state structural dynamics
rotational spectroscopy
high resolution and ab initio spectroscopy
nucleic acid damage and repair
photochemistry of fluorescent proteins
spectroscopy of chiral recognition and absolute configuration of carbohydrates
helium nanodroplet spectroscopy
condensed phase spectroscopy
vibrational circular dichroism spectroscopy of chiral molecules in solution and in thin film
solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy

Theoretical and Computational Chemistry

Theoretical chemistry utilizes mathematical techniques, and their subsequent numerical and computational implementation, to examine and understand physical and chemical phenomena in a wide range of problems in chemistry.

Research Areas

Research in theoretical and computational chemistry in the department covers a wide variety of topics, some of which include:

Laser control using the multi-configuration time-dependent Hartree (MCTDH) technique
Excited state molecular dynamics
Mixed quantum-classical approaches to modelling linear and multidimensional non-linear spectra of condensed phase systems
Development and applications of model core potentials for studying large molecules or those containing heavy elements
Quantum mechanical/molecular mechanical (QM/MM) methods for modelling anti-cancer drugs and fluorescent proteins

Centres and Institutes

In addition to national and international collaborations with industry, the Department of Chemistry houses centres and institutes that produce innovating and exciting research.